Geo016 - Exploration of Mars

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Geo016 / Exploration of Mars / (M) 3:00-5:20 / Lincoln Field 105 / Prof. James Head

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Jim Head (Professor) (02/04/04)

My name is Jim Head and I was born in Richmond, Virginia but grew up in Washington, DC. I went to Washington and Lee University in Virginia, majoring in Geology, and got my graduate degree from Brown University in Geology (studying ancient shallow water sedimentary environments in the Devonian of the Appalachian Mountains, analyzing rocks which formed about 400 million years ago.)

While at Brown I came under the influence of Professor Tim Mutch who got several of us graduate students interested in applying Earth studies and approaches to unlocking the geological secrets of the planets. We thought about how we would do this for the Moon and Mars, but not much had been done before and little was known about these planetary bodies, so it seemed a little hazy at the time. My last year at Brown, Tim went away on sabbatical leave and I was left to look for a job. I found a full-page ad in a College Placement Annual that simply had a picture of the Moon and the words, “Our job is to think our way to the Moon and back,” and a small note in the bottom with a telephone number and address. I called, and interviewed, and got the job, which was with NASA Headquarters and the Apollo Lunar Exploration Program. I was lucky enough to work with every Apollo mission. My job was doing astronaut training (loads of geological field trips with the astronauts), landing site selection, surface activity planning, and mission operations in Houston when the astronauts were on the Moon.

I then returned to Brown to help Professor Mutch develop a Planetary Geosciences program at Brown, and I was lucky enough to work with him on the Viking missions to Mars. Subsequently I worked on many missions to the planets and satellites, helping with the definition of the instruments, mission operations, and the analysis of the data. I also worked with many Soviet Union missions to the planets and we have developed a long-term interaction with Russian scientists who visit Brown frequently.

My research focuses on the processes that form and modify Earth and planetary landscapes and I focus on volcanoes and glaciers. This work has taken me to study active volcanic eruptions (Hawaii, Mt. St. Helens, etc.) and to the bottom of the seafloor in the Alvin submarine to study submarine volcanism. I also was lucky enough to spend six weeks in the Antarctic Dry Valleys last year, working from a tent in the most Mars-like environment on Earth.

I hope to contribute to this course some of the perspectives and excitement that come from exploration of the planets and specifically the ongoing activity on Mars.

What do I hope to get out of this course? I hope to learn a lot from the perspectives and knowledge of a group of freshmen with diverse backgrounds. I look forward to learning about why you are interested in Mars and how we can work together to build a vision and plan for the future. I look forward to your inquisitiveness and learning about your hopes and dreams for the future.


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